Tag Archives: stuart kells

the future of public libraries

The Great Library of Alexandria in Alexandria, Egypt might have been destroyed eons ago, but public libraries in every continent across the seven seas are going strong both as municipal assets and cultural repositories. Libraries are no longer elite academic institutes for the esoteric religious and the moneyed echelons of society whetting their intellectual vanity and superiority. The democratization of libraries as a public institution of shared and exchanged knowledge has made it possible for every class to access the symbolic fortresses of universe knowledge.

According to Stuart Kells, author of The Library: A Catalogue of Wonders and Shakespeare’s Library, libraries are “civic infrastructure,” which functions as pathways to literacy and social engagement where an exchange of information and propagation of knowledge occur voluntarily. In fact, a library is something of a public educational enterprise without expensive tuition, which provides various kinds of educational programs for all ages and all classes and of administrative services (e.g., passport service). That is why a government should fund its public libraries to encourage and fortify communal integrations and progresses instead of grandstanding on its discordant political vitriols to manipulate the number of constituents.

People might deem the future of public libraries to be rather bleak because of the advent of electronic books and online libraries. Yet, as time has been changed, so have libraries with modern resources, catering to the needs and interests of today’s library users. Public libraries have become democratic forums of learning and exchanging knowledge and information. They are vibrant cultural atriums in which the abstract and the physical become wondrously and liberally consummated. For this reason, I think that the future of public libraries is reasonably auspicious.

Author’s Note: This is my thought on a new radio interview with Stuart Kells on the future of public libraries. The subject is universal beyond Australia. Readers are encouraged to listen to the interview and to visit their local libraries.

Where is his library?


Library of the Bard is in a fairy hide beneath the visiting moon

Beyond an evanescent slice of the seacoast between tides in rhythm,

Down below the deepening foliage between field and forest,

High above the sloping land between plain and mountain yonder

Where Elves, Dwarves, and Hobbits are librarians of wonder

Among the unknown writs of mortals of the universe

Beyond the boundary of time and space and race,

Keep a single book of the Bard with the imprimatur

Of literary workaday Johannes Factotum

On the seventh floor of the Library of Babel

Girding the constellation of stars studded over

Cycle and Epicycle, Orb in Orb.

Author’s Note: I listened to an excellent podcast interview with Stuart Kells, author of Shakespeare’s library, and agreed with him about a possibility that a single book authored by William Shakespeare will someday materialize from an unknown arcane volume of various writings of others in an unexpected place. Things can happen. Hence this poem from my mind’s view on Shakespeare’s Library.  

sweets to the sweet from author of Shakespeare’s Library

This kindly tweet from Stuart Kells, author of Shakespeare’s Library will make my usual Manic Monday bright like a cup of good cappuccino. A thousand thanks to Mr. Kells 🙂

‘Shakespeare’s Library’ by Stuart Kells

Shakespeare's Library: Unlocking the Greatest Mystery in LiteratureShakespeare’s Library: Unlocking the Greatest Mystery in Literature by Stuart Kells

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

We talk of him so much, yet we know of him so little. As George Orwell elliptically put, “Much rubbish about Shakespeare has been written” by anti-Stradifordians as well as Stradifordians, and various sects of Shakespearenism still multiplying and evolving. Nonetheless, William Shakespeare is a heavyweight literary champion and a provocateur of authorship of his popular plays and pearly poems. He is certainly a man of reputation that gives him a status fusing highbrow elitism of a famed writer with a sensuous appeal of modern-day celebrity. In Shakespeare’s Library by Stuart Kells, such academic hullabaloos over Shakespeare’s authorship of his oeuvres are laid bare in the course of Kells’s quest of the existence of Shakespeare’s library, a list of books the Bard owned and a folio of his own manuscripts per se. For the meaning of Shakespeare’s library and its whereabouts are bound up with the authorship question and hold the key to the cardinal principles of humanities and truth.

Much of the debate on the Authorship Question arises from Shakespeare’s non-aristocratic family background despite the erudition of his writing. The book serves as Kells’s scholarly demurrer challenging the claim of Shakespeare’s non-authorship and flagrant plagiarism. Kells demurs at such preposterous allegations that negate the capacity of Shakespeare as a writer on the basis of ambiguity, uncertainty and prejudice. Kells takes a conservative liberal Socratic position of impartial advocate who defends the Bard on the grounds of (1) different social and historical criteria; and (2) the demonstrative evidence of the library at issue. With respect to Shakespeare’s alleged plagiarism, it must be regarded as a common de rigueur literary practice of his day that adopted the ideas from other source texts into an adaptor’s own. Adaptation was a revered literary custom, stretching back to medieval times when a monk modeled other people’s writings on his own because they taught him different styles of writing he wanted to emulate. Shakespeare lived before the advents of copyright and intellectual property law and psychoanalysis with the emergence of the powerful middle-class intellectuals as a substitute of the ecclesiastical caste. Therefore, we must not make an anachronistic mistake of looking at the past with our modern criteria in making parallel with our own time period, measuring the trend of the days against the principles of our day.

Further to the social background, including a lack of formal education and humble family origin, classicism is used as a touchstone of validity of Shakespeare’s authorship as carefully nuanced in this book. Kells as a learned adventurer shines through in this book. Various debates on the Authorship Question are rendered accessible as he pivots deftly from keenly observed details about the source texts to the universally equitable ramifications of his search of Shakespeare’s library in favor of the ingenious Bard. Kells wears his learning lightly here and writes with a general reader in mind, discriminating none regardless of social and cultural differences to invite all in his search of Shakespeare’s library. Shakespeare’s library is his source texts ingeniously combined into his world of imagination populated with star-crossed lovers, fairies, witches, kings, princes and a parade of various walks of life, all manifested in his legacy of literature still revered by all around the world. It is an excellent case of dispersion of collective knowledge throughout society as an Elizabethan-styled meme, a unit of cultural imitation, which is a form of cultural revolution in which art always flourishes.

If Chaucer foundered the bedrock of English literature, Shakespeare popularized it through his appealing works all over the world, making his timeless quotations indexes of wisdom and wits percolated through our daily lives. Rather than as a serious grim-faced man of letters, such as what Leo Tolstoy and his Anglo-Saxon ilk liked to lionize, Shakespeare was a fashionable Elizabethan literary tradesman, a workaday dramatist who had a feat of converting existing works into new kinds of drama, packed full of scintillating wits and memorable lines easy to understand with themes blended with the highbrow concepts and the lowbrow dramas that were contemporaneously popular in Shakespeare’s time. In Shakespeare’s library, readers will meet the Man as he was thanks to Kells’s impressive scholarship of Shakespearean literature and general erudition combined with his Socratic principle of “Knowledge to All” as manifested in his approachable writing style. Moreover, readers will come to know more interesting, more lively and more attractive libertine Shakespeare who was a practical artist with a wordily sense of success and vision to match. For he knew that to create was to recombine by letting his fancy free in his solipsistic library of books and notebooks – his Cabinet of Curiosities in Mind.

Thanks from the Author for my review

Mr. Stuart Kells, the author of The library: A catalogue of wonders, liked my review of the book and retweeted it into the bargain! https://t.co/oPrHlE4ian https://twitter.com/pekoya1/status/1059087996761268225?s=17

This will mark the second time the authors of the books I have read and reviewed liked my reviews and retweeted them on their tweeter accounts with compliments. The first one is from the New York Times bestselling American novelist Chris Bojalian and now Stuart Kells, an eminent Australian historian, writer, and professional book trader.

Although my blog does not have  a legion of readers like those of many others, recognitions from the great writers remind me of the simple but truthful proverb: “A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.” What a feeling!